Tag Archives: University and college admissions

For teens who want to write a better college application

Take five, relax, let yourself think about who you want to be.....

Take five, relax, let yourself think about who you want to be…..

 

Before you read further, you need to know this.

I am not a college advisor, consultant, or guru.

But I am a mother of two who gave her kids and their friends some advice in how to best present themselves on a college application.

My experience as a career consultant, evaluating and helping others write thousands of resumes helped prepare me for the task.

Whether due to my editorial help or not, thankfully, my kids got into the colleges of their choice.

I can relate to the intense pressure right about now that teens face in finalizing applications and putting the finishing touches on that all-important college essay.

With the upcoming flurry of activity surrounding Thanksgiving, I’m sure most teens will not be really, truly thankful until the last application has been sent off to the seeming abyss of the college admissions office.

Although much of the focus might be on the college essay, you might want to pay equal attention to how your application (or resume) reflects the story of who you are and what you’ve accomplished.

Yes, you need to squeeze meaning out of every word so your essay (in addition to meeting the new 500 word upper limit for the Common Application) must be attention-grabbing. However, you can be equally thoughtful and creative with factual information.

Many teens overlook how they appear on the application or college resume.  Consider these points before you tackle the job:

  1. Know who you are. This is the most crucial thing you could do right now. Some call this ‘branding’, and although I may not love the term, thinking of yourself in the third person, as a brand so to speak, will help you define more carefully what you want to present. What are your interests, hobbies, skills? Are they reflected accurately in your activities? Could someone figure out what’s important to you by seeing the totality of your activities? If not, you may either have too many activities listed or too few. No one says that you have to write about every single thing you’ve ever done. If need be, edit out those things that don’t add meaning to your presentation. Being a marginal member of a group for a few years won’t add to the portrait you’re trying to paint.
  2. Learn how to write a resume. The experience will help focus you and help you limit your words. Make sure you use action words and show results where possible. For example: “created unique fundraiser that engaged over 70% of students, raising $5,000 as the most successful event that year.” is way better than “planned or chaired school fundraiser.”
  3. What experience can you share that will set you apart from the crowd?  Try to not to list things that are general, but instead show off your specific contributions. For example, “contributed to a monthly blog for the school paper that received regular reader comments….” instead of “wrote for the school paper” or “was a reporter for the school paper”. Similarly, if you list commonplace activities that all of your peers are also listing, well, it’s just ho-hum. Think hard about what you do that others are not doing. For example, taking additional academic courses shows that you’ll be able to handle a challenging course load in college.
  4. Show a commitment over a long-term to some activity, cause, youth group, camp, or educational experience, that perhaps led you to take on a leadership position. If you can articulate that, even better. For example: “participant in youth group for three years, taking on successive leadership positions and am now Vice President of Membership.”
  5. Make sure your language is colorful, descriptive, and not boring. Hopefully your personality will shine through and you’ll get to the college of your dreams!

Please comment if you have additional ideas to add, everyone will benefit!

 


Who are you on the web? If you’re applying to college, you should know

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Should colleges check you out on Facebook?

For Teens, Their Parents, and Jewish Educators:

An article in Education Week noted what most of us already know: college admissions officers are not clueless when it comes to checking up on potential applicants.

There is an increase in the number of admissions officers who are digging deeper into social media as a way to gain a more rounded profile of student applicants.  Kaplan Test Prep noted that this activity has more than quadrupled.

“Most kids have no idea how important it is that their profile[s] online — Twitter, Facebook, other social media spaces — need to be appropriate for the admissions process,” said Dean Skarlis, president of The College Advisor of New York. “Most kids don’t even realize what’s appropriate and what’s not because they’re 16, 17 and their idea of what might be appropriate is very different than that of a college admissions person.”

Unfortunately, social media users are experiencing less control of what content gets posted.

Appear in a picture, and your ability to remove it may be very limited.

How can you go about cleaning up your act?

Here are three really quick things to do now:

1. Conduct a search on yourself.  Enter your name  into various search engines and social media platforms to see what comes up.

2. Make sure your account is ‘clean': free of postings that are inappropriate (get advice as to what inappropriate).

3. Do a search of your friend’s accounts, there may be content there that you would want removed.

4. Go into settings, and redo your privacy preferences so only your friends can see your posts..

Why is this post written for Parents, teens, and Jewish educators? As Jewish educators, we can use our setting to our advantage. Most of us meet with students in a trusting and casual environment. In those settings we have a unique opportunity to open discussions with our students that may rarely take place elsewhere. Moreover, helping students be more aware of the consequences of their actions is exactly within our mission.

Photo credit: Wikipedia


What is the real job we’re doing for Jewish Teens?

One of the "shakes with a punch" at ...

Milkshakes taste good. Jewish education is good. But what job are we really doing for Jewish Teens?

I read an article about marketing today that focused on milkshakes. (Please keep reading, the fact that Jewish teens tend to like a good milkshake or two is not where I’m going).

The author discovered that while milkshake sellers were trying to ‘market’ according to the usual: breakdowns by demographics, flavor choices, etc….the real question to be answered was: What job does the milkshake do for you, and how can we respond to that? 

This is a very different question that may open up opportunities for those of us who work with Jewish teens.

Are we marketing properly?

The author, Clay Christensen, coined the term ‘job-to-be-done’ as a way for marketers to get into the mindset of the consumer. Doing this is essential, as about 95 % of the 30,000 new consumer products fail.

So, the question about what is the job-to-be-done re: #Jteens becomes very relevant, even crucial for our work.

What is the job we are really doing with teens? Is it Jewish education? Or is it really preparation for life? Is it honing their critical thinking skills?

Is it preparing them to take on leadership roles in college? Is it preparing them for Jewish life on campus? Is it giving them an ‘out’ for taking a foreign language in high school?

I suggest that we figure out what we are really doing, and ‘sell’ that.  Let’s drink a milkshake to that one.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia


Helicopter Parents Go to College

This news came to my Inbox today:”Today’s Campus is launching a new publication designed as a resource for the parents of the entering freshmen college class. The handbook is expected to reach over 1 million readers this summer as they prepare to take the first steps towards college.”

I experienced one of those odd moments when you find yourself laughing at something and wish you had someone right there to share the comedy.  Right now, you’re my someone.

Check out this excerpt from above carefully: ‘as they prepare to take the first steps towards college.’ Now reread the entire quote above again. Who is the ‘they’ in the sentence? The handbook is clearly for parents, so it is the ‘they’ that made me laugh as I imagined parents packing for their first dorm room experience.  But, maybe the ‘they’ is intentionally vague (doubtful).

Here are four reasons why what I read was either very, very smart, or totally stupid.

Either option by the way does not preclude huge marketing success.

Smart reason #1. The college admissions process has gotten more intense, more competitive, and financially burdensome for so many families. Perhaps there are real ways to grapple with these issues that the handbook will provide.

Smart reason #2. We know that the terms ‘helicopter’ and ‘hovering’ have been used to describe parents of incoming college students. Now there is yet something else to buy that will somehow ensure their child’s college success. Or they will read about some hints that will perhaps make them all crazier, or actually give them an outlet for their worry. Either way, smart marketing.

Totally stupid reason #3. Why give in to the trend of parents not letting their teens go? This handbook may be feeding the frenzy that I listed in smart reason #1. (I know, this gets complicated).

Totally stupid reason #4. For those savvy enough, it will be pretty self-evident that pages of the handbook will be devoted to advertising space for the best dorm room message board, the must-have comforter and sheet set, and so on.

When the Handbook comes out and you decide to buy one (pick your reason above) I’d love to hear how it all turns out.


The 500 word college essay

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My blog posts rarely ever make the ideal 250 word count mark.

I read somewhere that the perfect blog contains just that amount for readability and the average attention span. 

I try, really I do, but my posts seem to hover around 320 words no matter how I shave and trim.  When editing, I habitually wince before checking out the word count total at the end of the page.  I slowly drag the scroller thing and catch a glimpse at just how off the mark I am.  Oops, failed again.

 So, I can relate to all those teens trying to squeeze meaning out of every word so their essay meets the new 500 word upper limit for the Common Application, as reported in the NY Times .  

What would you write about in under 500 words that would get you into college? Really, think about it.

What experience would you share that would set you apart from the crowd?  What would you say that would deliver just the right amount of punch and pizzazz? They have a daunting assignment.

We held a program for our students on how to navigate through the college application process.  The college consultant recommended that they not write about the obvious: trips to exotic locations, family drama, emotional trips to Israel, or Jewish camping stories.  That gives you a clue as to how competitive topic choices have gotten.

My undergraduate college essays were not that inspired. I think I wrote about why I wanted to attend that school. What I really did was to purposefully pore over enough promotional material so I could figure out how to tell them what they just told me, only more convincingly.

That seems quite lame when I compare it to the essays students have shared with me. Most have amazing and life changing stories to tell.

So, what would you write about?

Me? I’m glad I’m just posting and not putting my future on the line every time I hit ‘publish’.


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